City Council hears variety of information at May meeting
Rockford’s Harvest Festival will again offer a beer tent, road construction is underway, and Ron Riebschleger believes he is being unfairly targeted by city officials. These topics were just a few before Rockford’s City Council during the Monday, May 10 meeting at city hall. Also under discussion were the rezoning of Wolverine World Wide property to commercial and kudos to the city on its headway in becoming a National Tree City.
Main Street is in the process of being resurfaced, of which anyone driving downtown Rockford is surely already aware. The project was originally planned to take place after Wolverine World Wide demolishes the existing buildings. According to Rockford City Manager Michael Young, plans for the demolition are still uncertain, and funding for the repaving needs to be used. Trucks removing Wolverine debris will be routed out of town via North Main Street through the industrial park. Wolverine has announced plans to move the shoe store from its current location to the southernmost part of the property and rebuild closer to Rockford’s downtown retail. According to a spring update by Wolverine, the existing buildings will be completely demolished and the remaining property, except for the new shoe store, will be left as green space while the company decides how to utilize the riverfront property. The company may take advantage of the city’s Brownfield Authority. If Wolverine pursues that route, both the city and the state must approve it.
Resident Mike McIntosh told the council and city staff that he was very impressed by the recent Arbor Day celebration at Valley View Elementary School. “I saw it as a coming together of community, city and schools,” he said.
Ron Riebschleger said it has become apparent to him that city notification of violations of code by tenants of his property on Bridge Street are part of a vendetta by the City of Rockford against himself. He believes the problem began when he tried to sign up his son for a spot at the Rockford Farm Market to sell honey and popcorn and was turned down. Riebschleger said the reason he was given for turning down his son’s application for a booth was first that there were no open spaces, and later that the product would compete with downtown businesses.
“The only business he would be competing with in selling popcorn is his mother’s business [Sweet Tooth], and she is okay with that,” Riebschleger stated to council.
Keeping his complaint under the three-minute limit for public comment, Riebschleger repeated last month’s complaint that every one of his tenants has been told they are violating some portion of city code. All of the complaints were directed to the businesses except for one, which was taken to Riebschleger’s downtown Rockford dental office.
At last month’s meeting, council asked Young to respond to Riebschleger’s complaints. Young said in other cases of city code violation, business owners are quick to comply when they are made aware of a violation. In the case of Riebschleger’s tenants, they have argued to city staff that their landlord has told them they are not in violation and not to take the steps directed by the city.
“You can imagine the wasted energy and time this is taking,” Young said.
Council approved Grill One Eleven to have a beer tent during Harvest Festival. The tent was traditionally run by the Rockford Jaycees, who disbanded recently after 50 years in Rockford. The tent will be in the parking lot behind the restaurant on the first weekend of Harvest Festival. Beer tents during city celebrations have traditionally been held by nonprofit groups, such as the Lions Club tent during Start of Summer. According to Young, no nonprofit stepped up to take over.
Finally, Young explained the success of this year’s budget, which was completed with no raises in taxes. Taxes in the City are among the county’s lowest and have not been raised in over 20 years (see related story, page 1).
“It’s good to see so many things happening,” commented council member Steve Jazwiec.
“There is a lot going on,” said Young.
The next Rockford City Council meeting is the second Monday of June at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The public is always welcome.